Massage Therapy for Older Adults

Massage therapy for older adults helps improve balance

Massage therapy for older adults is a promising way to help them retain health and independence.

Older adults who received an hour-long massage once a week for six weeks showed significant improvements in balance, neurological and cardiovascular measures. In the recent study, 35 volunteers were randomly assigned to the massage group or a control group.

Those who received massage therapy had lower blood pressure and more stability immediately after the sessions, an hour after and even a week after the regimen ended.

The participants were healthy volunteers aged 58 to 68 who were recruited through brochures and posters in medical offices, libraries, stores, fitness facilities and by word-of-mouth in and around Birmingham, Alabama. People with a history of chronic disease that affected balance, heart health or nervous system function were not eligible to participate.

Each person in the treatment group received a standard, 60-minute massage therapy protocol once a week for six consecutive weeks. The study, published in 2012, is especially significant because most prior research examined the effects of a single session.

Older adults need options to help them stay independent and active, and massage may be a great non-pharmaceutical approach. Falls, many of them debilitating if not fatal, occur in one of every three adults 65 and older. Health care costs associated with falls alone are expected to reach $32 billion by 2020, according to a 2009 study.

Multiple factors contribute to falls among older adults, including visual system influences, balance impairment, and cardiovascular and neurological conditions. Falls break hips and arms, cause head injuries, and contribute to decline in quality of life.

Even bruising and emotional trauma from a fall can make someone more hesitant – and lack of confidence can compound the risk of additional incidents. Trying to compensate for muscle imbalances, pain and new or old injuries often actually cause the fall.

We already know massage therapy reduces pain and improves clients’ sense of well being. This study suggests that regular massage for older adults can do far, far more.

The study by JoEllen M. Sefton, Ceren Yarar and Jack W. Berry, Neuromechanics Research Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, Auburn University, AL, and Department of Psychology, Samford University, Birmingham, AL, was published in the September 2012 issue of the InternatIonal Journal of TherapeutIc Massage and Bodywork.

Cupping Therapy Nashville

What is cupping therapy?

Cupping therapy is a form of deep massage, affecting the body up to four inches into the tissues. Using heat or suction, cupping massage creates a partial vacuum that helps tissues release toxins, activate and clear blood vessels and promote local healing.

This is another ancient healing art that both mobilizes blood flow and opens the meridians, or energy conduits, of the body. Cupping is considered the most effective way of opening five important meridians down the back. Invigorating energy flows through the body once these meridians are open.

With cupping therapy Nashville clients tap into old traditions. Ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures all used cupping therapy, and references in hieroglyphics from 3,500 years ago refer to the procedure. Throughout history, healers used bamboo, hollowed out animal horns, seashells, nuts and gourds. Earthenware and metal cups preceded the development of glass.

Therapists today use cups made of medical silicone or plastic, some with pumps and some that incorporate magnetic therapy. Modern versions increase drawing strength while decreasing potential side effects and simplifying the procedure.

Most traditional massage therapy uses positive pressure and compression to manipulate tissues. Cupping uses negative pressure, stretching tissue from underlying structures. It greatly complements myofascial release, deep tissue work and manual lymphatic drainage.

Among the benefits of cupping therapy:

– Loosens adhesions
– Draws blood supply to the skin
– Moves stagnation and drains fluids
– Relieves inflammation
– Breaks up and congestion
– Promotes lymphatic fluid drainage
– Stretches muscle and connective tissues

With more people seeking alternatives, interest in holistic healing methods like cupping therapy is on the rise. At Ha.Le’ Mind and Body, we utilize both moving cups and stationary cupping methods. Depending on client needs and preferences, we will blend cupping therapy with other approaches.

Our clients who struggle with pain related to scar tissue report improved range of motion, and less pain after such sessions. If you’d like to know how cupping therapy may be of benefit, please give us a call at 615-414-0242 or contact us HaLeMindandBody.com.

massage for fibromyalgia

Massage for Fibromyalgia brings relief

Fibromyaglia is a frustrating syndrome.

People with fibromyalgia suffer from generalized pain, rigid joints and at times overwhelming fatigue. Performing basic activities becomes difficult. Trigger points, or areas of intense tenderness, make matters worse, both physically and emotionally. Depression, with or without anxiety, is common.

Massage therapy for fibromyalgia symptoms makes intuitive sense but research backs the approach as well. Studies show myofascial release therapy can be especially helpful in relieving symptoms. In it, therapists palpate, pull and stretch soft tissue known as fascia that surrounds and separates muscle layers. Circulation increases and contracted muscles relax.

In a 2010 study, 64 myofascial patients were assigned to one of two groups. In one, patients received 90-minute weekly treatments for 20 weeks. In the second, patients received “sham” treatments -30 minutes with a magnetic therapy machine that was disconnected. They did not know the treatments were fake.

Researchers evaluated myofascial therapy’s effects on pain, anxiety, and quality of sleep and depression in fibromyalgia patients. Measurements at baseline, after 20 weeks and six months following the treatments showed myofascial therapy provided significant benefits.

The patients in that group experienced  improved sleep and quality of life and reduced anxiety and pain — both immediately following the treatments and up to one month after. Six months after therapy, patients continued to report improvements in sleep.

The benefits did not extend to the control group.

The study was led by Adelaida Maria Castro-Sánchez at the University of Almería in Almería, Spain. She led a similar study in 2011 that examined more closely how fibromyalgia patients respond to massage therapy and found reductions in pain sensitivity to their pain, including some improvements that lasted as long as a year after the study was over.

Myofascial release is an effective alternative and complementary therapy for patients with fibromyalgia. Research as well as our own experience in Nashville with massage for fibromyalgia suggests regular sessions can make day-to-day living less painful, and more enjoyable. Watsu for fibromyalgia also is quite effective. Warm water alone helps our clients relax but gentle manipulations with a Watsu therapist can reduce pain and fatigue.

We’d love to tell you more.

ashiatsu nashville

What is Ashiatsu?

Have you ever seen photographs or video footage of a therapist walking on a client’s back, using overhead bars and straps as support?

That is Ashiatsu, a powerful and effective form of massage therapy that is one of our offerings here at Ha.Le’ Mind and Body. In Japanese, the root word “Ashi” means foot and “Atsu” means pressure.

Controlled foot pressure uses physics of both bodies – therapist and client – for maximum benefit. With feet, the therapist activates acupressure points and spreads tissue fibers, distributing more body weight and pressure than what is available during traditional massage therapy using fingers, hands and arms.

With the feet, Ashiatsu therapists push, pull and pump tissue to relieve symptoms of chronic soft tissue damage. Ashiatsu is very effective at treating scar tissue and is the most profound way to receive myofascial release.  The support bars and straps allow therapists to control the weight and pressure – Ashiatsu feels like a deep massage (which it is) more than it feels like someone is walking on your back.

Barefoot massage techniques have deep historical roots throughout Asia and date back at least 3,000 years. In India, oils on bare skin and one balancing rope characterize Chavutti Thermal. Elsewhere throughout the Pacific Rim, Buddhist monks would provide the healing art of barefoot massage, through clothing, to pilgrims who made financial offerings of support and devotion.

In the West, Ashiatsu was introduced by Ruthie Harding, who saw a group of women using their feet to massage a row of men on cots in the Philippines in 1967. The women all used one long rod suspended from the ceiling for support. During a trip to India, she saw a man stabilizing himself with two knotted cloths hanging from a tree while using his feet to massage a man on a mat.

I trained at Ruthie Harding’s facility in Colorado. Here in Nashville Ashiatsu massage is one of our specialties. The method creates a strong bond between therapist and client. Such a bond increases a client’s comfort level, making the massage more effective. We use a method of sinking into muscle fibers as breath allows, and the pace and knowledge of our therapist make our sessions therapeutic, profound, and beneficial.

One size does not fit all when it comes to body work, but for many of our clients in Nashville Ashiatsu is the perfect fit.

If you’d like to experience Ashiatsu, give us a call at 615-415-0242.

Nashville Massage for PTSD

Massage for PTSD creates space for healing

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is commonly associated with soldiers and other people in war-torn areas but it doesn’t take a war to manifest. Massage for PTSD is a powerful treatment form.

Any sort of prolonged chronic stress, from the loss of a loved one to an undiagnosed or misunderstood health condition, from marital discord to caring for a loved one, can result in PTSD.

I’ve seen it following knee replacement surgery, after replacement of a natural body part with a mechanical substitute. The surgery itself causes stress of many kinds – physical and emotional. But anxiety, grief and confusion often accompany the loss of an original part of the body in subtle but profound ways patients don’t expect.

PTSD also is caused by childhood trauma, including diseases and abuse, that carries forward.

PTSD is tricky. Unknown triggers set it off. The disorder comes and goes. It can manifest as depression, addiction of any kind, high anxiety levels, neuromuscular ticks, restless leg syndrome and balance problems.

Massage for PTSD has two important components. Massage with a trusted therapist creates and strengthens a trust bond that allows the client both physical and emotional comfort. That comfort and trust, in turn, create a space for coping with the stress the body is under.

Of course manipulation of tissue fibers is important, too. Massage for PTSD and generally increases relaxation, boosts mood and improves the quantity and quality of sleep. We have an amazing and innate ability to heal ourselves, and massage increases awareness of both physical and psychological stress. Massage for PTSD is empowering.

PTSD can be illusive, frustrating and at times debilitating. It doesn’t have to be.

Yoga therapy and ear acupuncture, like massage therapy, are effective in treating PTSD. Please contact us to learn more.

Research Highlight: Massage for knee arthritis eases pain

Cartilage is our friend.

Protective cartilage on the ends of our bones cushions the bones and allows easy movement. Over time, though, this firm yet slippery tissue wears down, and the rough surface creates friction. Friction creates pain. The pain intensifies when cartilage breaks down entirely and bone rubs on bone.

This is the most basic definition of osteoarthritis, which is also known as wear-and-tear arthritis and degenerative arthritis. Not surprisingly, it develops most often in joints we use a lot: hands, neck, lower back, hips and knees.

We commonly see clients with joint pain, inflammation, and connective tissue conditions. We also see many clients who have rheumatic conditions such as gout, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis has no cure; treatment is about managing symptoms of pain and stiffness and increasing range of motion. A new study suggests a massage regimen for knee osteoarthritis helps decrease pain and improve function.

The study is especially important because the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicines, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, funded the research.

The findings? Weekly massage for knee arthritis decreased pain and stiffness and increased functionality for at least 16 weeks after the massages ended, according to a 2012 study.

In the study, 125 adults with osteoarthritis of the knee were assigned to eight-week regimens that included usual care with no massage, 30-minute massages once or twice week, and 60-minute massages once or twice a week. Baseline metrics included participants’ ratings of pain, based on an accepted arthritis index; range of motion and time to walk 50 feet.

Massage therapists involved followed protocols for techniques and massage strokes to be used on specific body regions to keep treatment patients received as uniform as possible.

People in the group that received massage for knee arthritis demonstrated “significant improvement” over baseline at weeks 16 and 24. Researchers found the people who received 60-minute massages once a week reported the greatest reduction in pain.

At our practice we’ve successfully treated cases of osteoarthritis and pain associated with rheumatic conditions by reducing pain, increasing range of motion, restoring function, and decreasing the need for NSAIDs and other pain medications.

The study, “Massage therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized dose-finding trial,” was originally published in PLoS One. 2012; 7(2):e30248.

What is Ear Acupuncture?

The eyes may be a window to the soul but the ears are a gateway to the whole human organism.

Ear acupuncture involves stimulating five points on the ear to help lessen pain and illness, much like foot reflexology. The ears, like the feet, contain groups of “pluripotent cells” that hold information from the whole organism, allowing local stimulation to target another area of the body.

Stimulation of ear points has a rich, ancient history across many cultures, but its efficacy as a complementary medicine began an ascent in the mid-1950s. Dr. Paul Nogier, a French physician, is considered the father of modern “auricolotherapy,” as the practice is known.

He observed repeated, predictable somatotopic connections between ear points and specific body regions. Dr. Nogier also was the first to recognize ‘the man in the ear,’ or homunculus – anatomical correlations of an upside-down fetus in the human ear to points on the body.

Ear acupuncture is helpful in treatment of stress, behavioral health, including addictions, mental health, and disaster and emotional trauma, post traumatic stress disorders, acute and chronic pain, anxiety-related disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, smoke cessation, alcohol withdrawal and substance abuse.

After training as an Acu Detox specialist (ADS) at Yale University in 2012 I started providing weekly sliding scale treatments for those within my community as a stress reduction service. The use of five specific points stimulated by disposable sterilized needles helps calm the nervous system, quiets the mind, and brings a more balanced state of being.

Ear acupuncture practitioners use different tools to stimulate ear points and prompt a relaxation response, from finger tools to acupressure, laser and electricity, magnetic balls and seeds, and tiny acupuncture needles.

The goal remains the same: use five points in each ear for each person. In this way, the therapy creates a collective healing experience by tapping into points connected to body systems:

  • Sympathetic point: relaxes the entire body, stimulates the vagus nerve, promotes a shift from sympathetic mode to parasympathetic mode
  • Shen Men (Spirit Gate): relaxes the mind, calms the spirit, reduces anxiety
  • Kidney: promotes optimal kidney function, transforms the effects of excess fear
  • Liver: promotes optimal liver function, transforms the effects of excess anger and frustration
  • Lung: promotes optimal lung function, transforms the effects of excess grief and loss

Many clients immediately report better sleep, fewer headaches, less physical pain, and greater emotional wellbeing. I hope to see you soon!

 

acupressure improves sleept

Research Highlight: Acupressure Improves Insomnia

A simple acupressure intervention, pressure applied to a point on each wrist, improved sleep for residents with insomnia in a long-term care facility during a five-week study.

The study involved 50 residents of two facilities in Taiwan who were randomly assigned to a control group or an acupressure group. Four assistants were trained to provide acupressure. Those in the control group received light touch with no pressure on both wrists. Those in the acupressure for insomnia group received pressure at the HT7 point, also known as the Shenmen point, for five seconds, then a second of rest, for five minutes.

Participants in the acupressure group reported no insomnia symptoms from week three to week six. They only received acupressure through week five. Even at week seven, their insomnia scores remained lower than their baseline levels.

Acupressure is part of traditional Chinese medicine and is gaining broader popularity as a therapy with well-supported benefits. The mechanism may involve bioelectrical energy, and Western science has shown that specific acupoints have a higher electrical conductivity that surrounding areas.

Insomnia is one condition that responds well to acupressure. In the Taiwan study, before receiving therapy, participants rated eight measures – including difficulty falling asleep, awakenings during the night and sleepiness during the day – to establish their baselines. They rated the same measures weekly for seven weeks.

Benefits lasted two weeks after acupressure therapy ended, and participants’ insomnia gradually returned to what it had been before the study. Still, the study has significant implications. Caregivers and clients themselves can be taught to deliver wrist acupuncture, a non-invasive intervention that can improve both the depth and quality of sleep.

We use acupressure in combination with massage techniques. Applying pressure to specific locations on the body helps stimulate the body’s own natural healing processes. The action of Acupressure at HT 7 (Shen Men), also known as “spirit gate,” will tonify deficiencies of the heart, qi, yin, yang, and blood,. These are related to emotional issues such as ruminating and muddled thinking as well as physical responses to stimuli, anxiety, heart palpitations, and irregular heartbeat.

The Taiwan acupressure study was originally published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, 2010, Vol. 47, pages 798-805.

What is Watsu

What is Watsu?

The word “Watsu” is a combination of water and shiatsu.

Watsu therapy takes place in warm water. Through Watsu, I am able to rotate, flex and move my client’s muscles in ways not possible on a massage table. When a client is tense or rigid, I assist in positioning the body to effect complete relaxation.

The result is a fuller, more therapeutic massage. Water allows for freedom of the spinal vertebrae, mild rotation of joints and maximum elongation of muscles.

The client is supported by the warm water, held and moved rhythmically by the therapist, who also incorporates individualized breathing techniques. This non-impact series of postures helps clients break free from old posture and movement patterns, which often contribute to persistent, if not chronic, pain.

Water therapy helps reduce emotional stress, aids in flexibility and alleviates aches and pains. Below are comments from residents of a continuing care retirement community who received Watsu therapy twice a month for 18 months as part of a study:

  • “It is wonderfully relaxing and has helped my back.”
  • “I experienced some chronic leg pain before I began receiving Watsu. It has almost disappeared.”
  • “I sleep better. I have a sense of well-being. My blood pressure is so much lower that my medication has been cut in half.”
  • “It is the most relaxing experience I’ve ever had.”

Based on restorative principles of stress reduction, release of physical tension and acupressure, Watsu can benefit clients of all types. This modality is especially suited to people with histories of physical ailments that include arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, cancer, spinal fusion, Parkinson’s disease and hip/knee replacement or restoration.

The movements are gentle and fluid and don’t require limbering up or warming up before a session. As a water therapy, Watsu alleviates joint pressure and creates a profound sense of well-being.

I’ve been practicing Watsu therapy in Nashville at the Greenhills Health Center off Woodmont Boulevard for several years. Not only does the GHHC have the warmest salt pool in Nashville, the center provides a supportive atmosphere for rehabilitation.

I’ve adapted Watsu for individuals with a range of circumstances: children with special needs; children with learning differences; teenagers; and clients with PTSD’s, chronic pain, or hip and knee replacements. I also use Watsu with people who have had sexual trauma, stroke and those who are pre-surgery, post-surgery, or pregnant.

Those of us who explore Watsu’s potential for healing find lasting benefits, powerful experiences, and, most of all, a deep connection to just being alive.

gentle stretching exercises

Guided, gentle stretching exercises create foundation for wellness

This 11-minute audio podcast guides listeners through a series of simple, gentle stretching exercises that release tension in the neck, shoulders, chest, back and spine.  The way we stretch helps determine the quality of motion we display.

Beginning with basic neck rolls, the series progresses through four stretches. Stretching should be gradual and slow and paired with deep breathing. Hold each stretch for 2 seconds, then release.

I recorded this guided session for a series on self-care for providers within the National Health Care for the Homeless Council who are dedicated to breaking the links between poor health and homelessness.

Those of us who provide care know we do our best when we take care of ourselves, though these stretches will benefit anyone at nearly any fitness level. Designed to relax and restore, this short routine is a healthy way to start the day or take a break from your work.

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